Raiders turning the corner

Two short weeks ago it appeared the Oakland Raiders were headed for another disastrous season.

With consecutive wins against AFC West opponents, suddenly the outlook for the Oakland Raiders doesn't look so bleak.

Staggering along at 2-8 and looking as if they were going to make a run for a top three draft pick to go along with JaMarcus Russell (No. 1 overall in 2007) and Robert Gallery (No. 2 overall in 2004), the Raiders built on the previous week's road win over Kansas City with a 34-20 win over the Denver Broncos at McAfee Coliseum.

It may have been the Raiders' best all-around effort since the start of the 2003 season, having compiled a 19-57 record since then.

With Daunte Culpepper out with a quadriceps injury, Josh McCown, the hugely unpopular choice as the starter over Russell, got the crowd on his side by completing 14 of 21 passes for 141 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Russell, although he produced no points, had no turnovers as the Raiders took a couple of series to glimpse into the future.

Where that leaves the Raiders as far as the quarterback position heading into Lambeau Field and Green Bay next week is anyone's guess.

Coach Lane Kiffin, the first Raiders coach since Bill Callahan in 2002 to win consecutive games against the AFC West, was taking in the win rather than assessing the quarterback situation. Regardless of the quarterback, if Oakland continues to play as well up front as it has the last two weeks, the offense may continue to operate efficiently.

Justin Fargas rushed for 146 yards on a career-high 33 carries with a touchdown as Oakland ran for 175 yards overall. McCown and Russell were not sacked.

"I think this was our best team win in a long time," Fargas said. "It speaks a lot about the guys we have in this locker room. We're not going to quit, not going to worry about our confidence. We're going to keep working together and good things will happen."

The two-game streak doubled the Raiders' win total from last season and snapped a 12-game losing streak of home games against teams from the AFC West.

"This was our best game, but we can still do more," linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "We left a lot of points out there on the field."

True enough.

Sebastian Janikowski missed field-goal attempts of 58 and 35 yards, and converted attempts of 38 and 44 yards -- essentially getting six points out of a potential 28 in terms of red zone opportunities.

"We put our field-goal kicker out there too many times," Kiffin said. "We don't like putting him out there, as good as he is. We want to finish drives by scoring."

Most encouraging for the defense heading into Green Bay and beyond was a 4-to-1 advantage in takeaways against Denver and giving up just 86 yards rushing on 29 carries. The Raiders have given up 100 yards rushing to eight different runners, but held Travis Henry to 40 yards on 14 carries.

Coming as it did against a Broncos team ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing, it bodes well for facing the Packers' Ryan Grant, as well as games to follow against Joseph Addai (Indianapolis), Fred Taylor (Jacksonville) and LaDainian Tomlinson (San Diego).

Oakland came into the game ranked 32nd in rushing defense, giving up 153.6 yards per game. By the end of Sunday, it had improved two spots at 148.0.


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